In which the Gift of Stories continues: a flying ship, no pirates

The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship (Russia)
Once upon a time, an old peasant and his wife had three sons. The two eldest were clever and their mother loved them. The youngest, whose name was Ivan, was a fool.

One day the Tsar had sent heralds to announce that he wanted a flying ship and whoever would build it would win the hand of his daughter in marriage, and half the kingdom, too.

The two eldest brothers decided to try their luck and build such a ship. Their mother baked tarts, fresh bread and roasted chicken and gave them her blessing.

The brothers went to the forest and chopped many branches, but they didn't know what to do afterwards. They suddenly noticed an old man standing nearby.

“What are you building?” asked the old man.

But the brothers answered him rudely and so they never learned how to build a flying ship.

A few days later, Ivan begged his parents for permission to try his luck too.

“You will never be able to make such a journey and will probably be eaten by wild animals on the way,” said the mother, but Ivan started his journey anyway, so his mother gave him a thick slice of stale bread and sent him away.

Ivan went to the forest and looked for a tree to chop down.  But he couldn’t find a tree that would fly, so he sat down to eat his stale bread.  The old man came and asked him for a piece of the bread, and Ivan shared it willingly. 
And for every piece he shared, there was another for himself, and each bite was fresher and tastier than the last.

“Why are you in the forest today?” asked the man.

“I want to build a flying ship,” replied Ivan.

“It's difficult to build such a ship.”

“With age comes wisdom,” said Ivan.  “You are old, please give me good advice.” 

The old man instructed Ivan how he should build the flying ship and Ivan built it.

When the flying ship was finished, the old man instructed Ivan, “No matter who you meet on the way to the Tsar’s palace, bring each wayfarer on board.”

Ivan thanked the old man profusely, and flew away towards the Tsar’s palace.

As he flew along, he spied a man below, kneeling on the ground, his ear pressed to the earth. Ivan was very surprised and asked the man, “What are you doing with your ear pressed to the ground?”

“Oh,” said the man, “I am listening how birds are singing in distant Southlands. I can hear all that is happening, no matter where in the world it is.”

“Come and join us on the flying ship!” exclaimed Ivan, and the man climbed on board.

They had not flown much further when they saw a man hopping on one leg with the other tied to his ear. Ivan asked him, “Why are you hopping on one foot with the other tied to your ear?”

“Oh,” said the man, “I run so quickly that if I don’t tie up my foot, I will step across the whole world in no time at all!”

 “Come and join us on the flying ship!” exclaimed Ivan, and the man climbed on board.

They had not flown much further when they saw a man shooting his gun at nothing at all in the sky. Ivan brought his ship down and asked the man why he was aiming his gun at the sky when there was not a bird in sight.

“Oh,” said the man, “I am aiming my gun at a greyhen sitting on the tree situated at a distance of a thousand kilometers from here.”

“Come and join us on the flying ship!” exclaimed Ivan, and the man climbed on board.

On and on they sailed through the endless sky until they saw a man below carrying a sackful of loaves on his back. Ivan asked the man, “Where are you going with such a load?”

“Oh,” said the man, I am going to town to get bread for my dinner.”

Ivan was puzzled and exclaimed, “But you have a whole sackful of loaves on your back!”

The man replied. “That's nothing. I could swallow that in one gulp and still be hungry.” 
“Come and join us on the flying ship!” called Ivan, and the hungry man climbed on board.

They had not gone far when they saw a man walking round and round a lake. Ivan asked him, “Why are you walking around the lake?”

“Oh,” said the man, “I feel thirsty, but I can find no water.”

“But there is a whole lake of water in front of you!” said Ivan.

“I would swallow this lake in one gulp and still go thirsty.”

Ivan invited him to join his voyage and the thirsty man climbed on board. On they flew until they saw a man walking into a forest with a bundle of brushwood on his back.

“Why are you taking brushwood into the forest?” asked Ivan.

“Oh,” said the man, “This is not just ordinary brushwood. I only have to scatter it over the plain and a whole army will spring up.”

This man also joined the ship and shortly afterwards they met a man carrying a bale of hay. But this was no ordinary hay. No matter how hot the sun, he only had to spread the hay upon the ground and a cool breeze would spring up and snow and frost would follow.

He was the last wayfarer to join the band in the ship. They continued their journey and soon they reached the Tsar’s palace.  Seeing the flying ship landing not far from the palace, the Tsar immediately ordered his servants to discover who the visitors were.

The servants told him that common peasants arrived and there wasn't a single one of noble blood. The Tsar was extremely displeased. How could he possible allow his daughter to marry a peasant?

He asked boyars to help him and they told him, “You should set impossible tasks for these peasants and you will be able to get rid of them without going back on your word.”

So the Tsar ordered Ivan to bring him two jugs: a jug of the Water of Life and a jug of the Water of Death - and to bring them to him before he finished eating his breakfast!

Ivan was shocked, but Giantsteps said: “Don't worry, I will bring the jugs in a minute!”

Giantsteps unhitched his leg from his ear, ran to the remote kingdom and collected the jugs. Then he thought to himself: "I have plenty of time and it is possible to have a rest."

He sat under a big oak and dozed off. Back at the palace, the Tsar was eating his third egg and the crew of the flying ship were becoming uneasy.

The first wayfarer (the one who could hear the slightest sound near and far) put his ear to the ground and heard the mighty snores of Giantsteps beneath the big oak. The Marksman took his gun and fired at the oak. Acorns fell on the head of Giantsteps and woke him. Giantsteps jumped up and brought the water in several seconds.

The Tsar looked at the jugs of the Water of Life and the Water of Death and decided to test the magic water.

Servants caught a red rooster and splashed the Water of Death on it. The rooster died at once. Then servant splashed the Water of Life on it and the red rooster returned to life.

Foiled on the first task, the Tsar set a second. This time it was even more impossible: to eat a dozen roast oxen and a dozen freshly baked loaves at a single sitting.

Ivan groaned, “I could not eat a single ox in a week!”

But the Hungry man calmed Ivan and said, “Don't worry, that is only enough to be my lunch!”

And so the Hungry Man devoured the twelve roast oxen and twelve loaves in one gulp - and then called for more!

The Tsar was furious. He called for forty pails of beer to be poured into each of forty barrels and commanded that all this was to be consumed in a single draught.

Again Ivan was crestfallen. But the Thirsty Man cheered him up, “I can drain them all in one draught, and still have room for more!”

And so it was.

This time the Tsar was desperate. He gave orders for an iron bath-house to be heated until it was white hot. Ivan had to spend the night steaming himself in it. That would surely put an end to him, the Tsar thought to himself.

Ivan entered the bath-house in the company of the Straw Man, who scattered his hay across the iron floor. This made the place so cold that Ivan had barely washed himself before the water turned to ice.
When the Tsar unlocked the bath-house the next morning, Ivan stepped out, washed and clean and as fresh as a daisy!

The Tsar was beside himself with rage. He commanded Ivan to assemble an entire regiment of troops by the next morning. At last he had found the best solution to the entire problem, for where could a simple peasant raise an army? He would be rid of Ivan once and for all!

Ivan was distressed, but the Brushwood exclaimed, “You have forgotten me! I can raise a whole host of fighting men in the twinkle of an eye. And if the Tsar refuses to give up his daughter after that, our army will conquer his kingdom!”

In the morning Ivan and his friend went in the field and spread brushwood over the grass and in a twinkling a vast army of cavalry, infantry and artillery appeared.

When the Tsar saw the army before his palace, with banners and pennants fluttering in the morning breeze, he took fright and ordered his generals to withdraw the royal army.

Ivan turned the Tsar out of the kingdom and married the princess. No one ever called Ivan a fool after that. He became a clever ruler who was fair to common people.


Everybody loved and respected him especially the princess, with whom he lived happily for the rest of his days.

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